Category: Academic Departments
From Kahn, S., Ceci, S., Ginther, D., Williams, W., (2014). Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 1-67.
History—and headlines—would lead one to believe that gender discrimination is at the root of women’s underrepresentation in scientific academic careers, particularly in math-intensive fields. This was certainly true in years gone by, but what about today?
According to a new paper by Shulamit Kahn, associate professor of markets, public policy and law at Boston University School of Management, that’s no longer the case. Outdated reports on the struggle of academic women still dominate the media, painting an inaccurate picture of current barriers to women’s participation in academic science. The image of a male-centric academy persists, but references to gender discrimination are no longer a valid cause of women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive fields.
Kahn’s paper, “Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape,” co-authored by Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University and Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas, illustrates how times have changed: women in academic science are more likely to receive hiring offers than their male counterparts, are paid comparably to men in most cases, are tenured and promoted at the same rate, persisted in their jobs comparably, and had their grants funded and articles accepted as often. There are exceptions, of course—in certain fields like economics and biology, women are receiving less than their due—but Kahn’s paper reveals that academic science today shows greater equality than ever before.
What proves to have a greater impact on women’s full participation in mathematically intensive fields are “pre-college factors and the subsequent likelihood of majoring in these fields.” The authors’ extensive life-course analyses indicate that adolescent girls express less interest in careers like engineering and computer science than boys, and are less likely to declare college majors in math-intensive fields in high school. Although girls earn higher grades throughout schooling in virtually all subjects, they are less likely to take AP courses like Calculus BC and Physics. Kahn and her co-authors find, however, that if girls do take introductory science courses in college, they excel and are more likely than males to switch into science majors, especially if their instructors are women.
“We have to get girls to start thinking of themselves as mathematicians and physics-lovers early on, because they can have great academic careers in these fields,” Kahn says. ”Surprising to many, the women who major in fields like engineering and physical sciences are likely to enter and succeed in academia and are equally happy as men in their jobs.”
Kahn’s paper suggests that rather than misdirect attention toward historical barriers that no longer account for women’s underrepresentation in academic science, future research should focus on the early-stage barriers that girls face, such as a lack of encouragement in high school to pursue math-based degrees. The conversation must change.
Despite the bleak scene that the media has created (one based on decades-old data), women today are thriving in academic science, according to Kahn and her co-authors. Gender bias in math-intensive fields? That’s a thing of the past.
“Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape” appears this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
Article references Buffa’s work on fund manager contracts and equilibrium asset prices
Assistant Professor of Finance Andrea Buffa is cited in The Economist for his new paper on asset management contracts and equilibrium prices. Co-written with Dimitri Vayanos and Paul Woolley of the London School of Economics, Buffa’s paper sheds light on the “low beta anomaly” in markets that The Economist believes is a result of how investors choose fund managers.
“Most financial assets these days are not held directly by investors but by professional fund managers on their behalf,” the article states. “And that separation may explain a couple of big anomalies that undermine belief in the efficiency of markets.”
One of those anomalies, according to The Economist, is that greater risk demands greater reward. In practice, this old rule of thumb doesn’t hold up: less volatile (low beta) stocks have offered far higher returns than the theory would suggest. Buffa and his coauthors provide reasoning that explains this “low beta anomaly.”
The Economist references their findings:
Investors judge fund managers by how successful they are relative to their peers, and to benchmarks such as the S&P 500 index. They reward “star” managers who have been successful in the past, giving them new funds to manage and taking money away from poor performers. This new money will be invested in the stocks the managers concerned favour, which are highly likely to be those that have recently performed well (that is why the managers are stars). Such shares will therefore continue to rise in price, which helps explain the momentum effect.
But fund managers also need to worry about underperforming the benchmark, since that will cause them to lose clients. The greatest risk is to have an underweight position in a big company that is rapidly rising in price (5% of the portfolio in a stock that is 10% of the index, for example). If such a stock rises (perhaps because of good news such as higher-than-expected profits), the distance from the benchmark grows. So underperforming fund managers will be under pressure to increase their holdings in such stocks, even if they consider them overvalued (this happened during the dotcom boom).
For success in business and life, a network of developers is key
Time was when the right training, a promising job opportunity, and the support of a senior colleague were enough to advance in your career. Those days are gone.
In a world where, at every moment, the economy is globalizing, technology is developing, and the workplace is changing, it takes much more to achieve success, regardless of the industry. To keep pace with these current realities, making relationships through which we can learn new skills, develop new opportunities, and build effective collaborations is essential, according to Kathy Kram, Richard C. Shipley Professor in Management at Boston University School of Management.
Kram and Wendy Murphy, associate professor of management at Babson College, have published a new book titled Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life (McGraw-Hill), which provides guidelines for building relationships that are crucial to personal success. The book draws upon 30 years of research to offer practical advice on mentoring, coaching, mentoring circles, and developmental networks—advice that is key to staying ahead in an environment with ever-shifting trends.
“These trends make us all novices over and over again as we necessarily move to a new job, new organization, or new country,” Kram says. “It’s almost impossible to be an expert for very long.”
This is where supportive work relationships play a critical role.
“Finding a mentor is no longer sufficient,” Kram says. “Instead, each of us has to build a network of developers that can help us to continuously learn, innovate, and work with others.”
In three parts, Strategic Relationships at Work gives readers a guide to identifying high-quality relationships, how to build them, and what to do when they go awry.
The first part of the book provides an overview of what makes for high-quality relationships and gives the reader a number of assessment tools to create a personal strategy for building an effective circle of mentors, sponsors, and peers. Kram and Murphy argue that you must first know yourself—your values, goals, interests, talents and limitations—before you can begin to build supportive relationships. Once this self-knowledge is developed, it’s up to you to assess whether you have relationships in place that can help you achieve your aspirations.
From there, the authors offer strategies for building different types of relationships and invites those in leadership positions to foster developmental relationships in their organizations through formal programs, their own efforts to build effective alliances, and rewarding others for doing so.
What if things sour? When is it time to “break up” with your mentor? The third part of the book outlines how to end a relationship that has gone awry to minimize negative impact on your career. Via case examples of “tor-mentors,” Kram and Murphy illustrate the “red flags” that suggest when a relationship is no longer mutually beneficial, and offer specific communication tactics for ending it and moving on.
With this book in hand,” Kram says, “you will be able to form mutually rewarding relationships at work, create strong connections with meaning and purpose, and experience greater satisfaction and success—in business and life.”
Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life is available for purchase here.
From Restuccia, J., Mohr, D., Meterko, M., Stolzmann, K., Kaboli, P., (2014). The Association of Hospital Characteristics and Quality Improvement Activities in Inpatient Medical Services. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 5(29), 715-722.
All eyes have been on health care in the US as of late, with the quality of its services under much scrutiny. Deficiencies in patient care have been well reported and documented, but knowledge is scant about the degree to which hospitals are implementing systematic actions or practices to remedy the situation.
A new paper by Joseph Restuccia, Boston University School of Management professor of operations and technology management and dean’s research fellow, investigates the extent to which hospitals are engaging in quality improvement activities (QIAs), or factors influencing the extent of QIAs—data-guided activities designed to bring about immediate improvement in health care delivery. Co-authored by David Mohr, Mark Meterko, Kelly Stolzmann, and Peter Kaboli, the paper, “The Association of Hospital Characteristics and Quality Improvement Activities in Inpatient Medical Services,” appears this month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The group specifically sought to identify the level of QIAs in the Veterans Administration’s (VA) 124 acute care hospitals, as well as factors associated with widespread adoption of QIAs, particularly the use of hospitalists (physicians who specialize in the practice of hospital medicine), non-physician providers, and the extent of goal alignment between senior managers and the inpatient service on commitment to quality. They identified 27 QIAs and classify them in three separate domains:
- Prevention: activities to prevent adverse reactions among patients, such as contracting bedsores or other infections
- Information-gathering: activities to improve the hospital’s knowledge base to improve quality, such as learning best practices within or outside industry, or conducting a management walkaround to raise awareness of the state of the institution
- Infrastructure: the basis on which you can build quality improvement programs and evidence-based practice guidelines; clinicians meet to discuss a topic of interest
Their study of the VA, the largest integrated health system in the US, resulted in three major findings. First, of the three domains, VA hospitals have devoted the most substantial effort to prevention-related QIAs to date. Second, where there is a close alignment of goals between senior managers and inpatient medical service leadership, there is a greater likelihood of QIA use. Finally, medical centers that employ hospitalists display the highest QIA-adoption rates across all three categories.
For senior leaders and clinicians, a key takeaway from the study is the importance of effectively communicating goals and aligning them throughout the organization, a significant factor in improving quality of care.
Read “The Association of Hospital Characteristics and Quality Improvement Activities in Inpatient Medical Services” here.
Boston University School of Management Professors Yrjo Koskinen and Rui Albuquerque, along with Art Durnev, associate professor of finance at the University of Iowa, have been awarded the 2014 Standard Life Investments prize for best paper in the European Corporate Governance Institute’s (ECGI) Finance Working Paper series. This annual prize, sponsored by global asset manager Standard Life Investments, was awarded for their research paper in which they create an industry equilibrium model where firms can choose to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.
As part of the 2014 ECGI Working Paper Competition, Koskinen and Albuquerque were presented the award at a ceremony held at the Royal Academy of Belgium in Brussels. The professors’ paper was chosen from 53 others published in the ECGI’s finance series, making this year’s selection the most competitive to date, according to ECGI director of communications Jeremy Miller.
“It’s a great honor to receive the best finance paper award from the ECGI,” says Albuquerque, associate professor of finance and dean’s research fellow. “Being selected as the top paper among the best papers in the profession that make it to the ECGI list is incredible validation of this work by both peers and industry leaders.”
Their paper, “Corporate Social Responsibility and Firm Risk: Theory and Empirical Evidence,” models CSR activities as an investment in customer loyalty and shows that CSR decreases systematic risk and increases firm value. The award represents CSR’s growing relevance among finance scholars, which, according to Koskinen, is a significant achievement.
“CSR as a topic has received scant attention from the academic finance community,” says Koskinen, assistant professor of finance. “As our results show, CSR has lowered cost of capital for many firms and thus created value for shareholders. CSR is too important of a topic to be ignored. This recognition certainly encourages us to keep working on the topic.”
The professors’ paper was previously awarded a research grant by the BSI Gamma Foundation in 2012, as well as the best paper award at the inaugural Geneva Summit on Sustainable Finance in 2013.
Founded in 2002, the ECGI is an international scientific non-profit association that provides a forum for debate and dialogue between academics, legislators, and practitioners, focusing on major corporate governance issues. Standard Life Investments is a leading asset manager that manages $311.1 billion on behalf of clients worldwide. It has sponsored the Finance Prize for best paper since 2005.
Fournier outlines steps to getting more value out of social media brand-chatter
Last month, Susan Fournier, Questrom Professor in Management and professor of marketing, advised marketers in the Harvard Business Review: Think like an anthropologist. Instead of breaking down big data into percentages and meaningless numbers, tap into social media chatter to get a real glimpse into how consumers are living and thinking. A single comment or photo posted about a company’s product can impact its consumer knowledge and its profitability—don’t ignore it.
In a follow-up to her piece on this anthropological approach to big data, Fournier, once again in collaboration with Bob Rietveld, managing director and cofounder of Oxyme, delves deeper into the value of social listening and offers further instruction: Think like a market researcher. The information gained from social listening can be as robust a source of strategic inspiration as any must-have diagnostics on the dashboard, the pair writes. Not to mention, social listening is inexpensive and efficient, because surveying is unnecessary: unsolicited comments from consumers are already out there, awaiting analysis.
Fournier and Rietveld outline four steps to getting more value out of social media brand-chatter:
Make sure the quality of your social-listening data is good.
Like all data, the information you glean from social media should be subject to market-research protocols for reliability and validity. Ask the same kinds of tough questions you’d ask about any research project. Are the data drawn from the entire social-media landscape? Is the sampling of comments statistically sound? Is the system of data classification, in terms of topics, themes, and sentiments, accurate? Does your automated coding allow for idiomatic meanings, as in “This brand is the s—t”? The insights you get from social media are only as good as the data set you create.
Don’t make your social-media data stand alone.
Information from social listening must be correlated with other streams of data that the company is using. For example, in an analysis we performed for a transport company, we found that complaints shared on daily Twitter feeds tracked 90% with the content of customer-service comments registered by phone or mail. Linkages like this go a long way toward speeding the adoption of social-media data as a valid strategic-insight source.
Think about “impact” and not just ROI.
Marketing managers tend to take too narrow a view of social listening, seeing it merely as a way to measure the return on investment of specific marketing campaigns. For example, an electric-toothbrush maker that had launched a campaign to woo “non-electric” brushers was dismayed to learn that the resulting burst of social-media activity came mostly from existing users. It branded the campaign a flop and moved on.
In so doing, the company overlooked the value of what it had found on social-media sites. Users were sharing positive stories, advocating electric brushing, and in some cases expressing their love of the company’s brand. The company was getting a rare unfiltered look at how consumers were living the impact of the company’s strategies and brands.
Be sure your social-listening analyses make their way out of the marketing-research department
and into the wider organization, including leadership circles. Don’t let the information stay bottled up in the departments that collected and “own” the data. That means establishing a common analytical currency and language throughout the company so that managers can take action and be held accountable. One company we worked with created a Center for Digital Excellence to coordinate data on a vast brand portfolio. The company tied the digital indicators to bonus compensations, signaling C-level commitment to the program. It’s that kind of high-level integration that enables companies to focus efforts and resources effectively, creating value for the firm.
View the full piece here.
Real value is created through meaningful innovation and adoption—not from smoke and mirror deception
Mark T. Williams, Boston University School of Management executive-in-residence and master lecturer of finance, warns against the peer-to-peer electronic payment network Bitcoin in a wide range of media commentary, arguing that investors across the globe should steer clear of this “dangerous speculative bubble” and its “get-rich-quick mindset.”
Excerpts from Williams’s commentary for WBUR (Dec. 5, 2013):
Bitcoin is not a futuristic currency but a speculative mania. Greed is pushing prices skyward but fear will quickly bring those same prices crashing back to earth. Investors need to separate the promising technological innovation of digital currency from the Bitcoin Ponzi scheme that will harm those that fail to exit before the bottom falls out.
Bitcoin is another example of “market innovation” that deserves closer scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC Chairman Mary Jo White has said virtual currency itself may not be considered a “security,” but interest issued or returns gained by it likely would be and therefore subject to regulation. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that the Fed “does not necessarily have authority to directly supervise or regulate these innovations.” And the Justice Department says Bitcoin is legal, but that doesn’t mean it is adequately market tested, investment safe and ready to be a global currency.
Bitcoin is not a currency with intrinsic value but a hyper bubble fueled by a get-rich-quick mindset.
Excerpts from The Washington Post blog “The Switch” (Dec. 10. 2013):
In recent weeks, some Bitcoin critics have been rethinking their initial Bitcoin skepticism. But others are as convinced as ever that the cryptocurrency is doomed. One of the harshest critics is Mark Williams, who teaches finance at the Boston University School of Management. He predicts that in the first half of 2014, bitcoins will lose almost 99 percent of their value, falling below $10.
Timothy B. Lee: What informs your thinking about the future of Bitcoin?
Mark Williams: I used to be the senior vice president of a commodity trading firm in Boston. I’m very familiar with commodity prices with high volatility. For example, energy prices would have swings of 400 to 500 percent in a year. That’s significant price movement.
But Bitcoin is in a universe of its own. Right now Bitcoin is looking at price movements as high as 8000 percent since January. It moved from $13 per bitcoin to a high of $1200. So what we see then is considerable risk associated with Bitcoin.
At least with a commodity like power, natural gas or oil, there’s an underlying value. That product can be used for something. With Bitcoin, it’s a virtual commodity, so there’s no backing. In essence, Bitcoin is worth something as long as you or I are willing to sell things for it. But if you say I’d rather have $1,000 than a bitcoin, Bitcoin is going to drop like a rock.
Excerpt from Williams’s interview on “Bitcoin’s future in Europe and the US” for The Voice of Russia (Dec. 20, 2013):
Bitcoin…has too much movement to be used as a medium of exchange….With any currency, you have to have trust in that currency, and you have to have stability….In the last two weeks, we’ve seen a drop of almost 50%. It’s almost like a roller-coaster out of control.
Srinivasan on effective subject lines in email marketing
Email marketing is a key strategy for retailers looking to spread the word about holiday shopping deals. But not just any email, Erika Morphy writes in CRM Buyer—mobile email. A full 48 percent of email is now opened on a mobile device, according to Ashley Twist, senior innovation strategist of mobility at Engauge. Now more than ever, consumers are using their mobile devices in stores for last-minute product research, including email offers from local merchants, the pieces notes.
In order to provide a high-quality mobile experience for consumers, marketers must be familiar with the best practices in mobile email marketing, particularly with crafting an effective subject line, on which Boston University School of Management professor of marketing Shuba Srinivasan weighs in:
“Subject lines make the first impression,” Boston University professor Shuba Srinivasan told CRM Buyer. “They need to be inviting enough to not give away the whole email, concise enough that they fit on the screen of all devices and clear enough that people know why you’re sending an email.”
Read the full piece here.
To Understand Consumer Data, Think Like an Anthropologist
Harvard Business Review featured a piece from Questrom Professor in Management Susan Fournier and Bob Rietveld, managing director and cofounder of Netherlands-based marketing analytics firm Oxyme, in which the two write that the meaning within consumer data lies with social media, such as pictures and comments on products, not with percentages. Focusing on social-media chatter can have a profound impact on a firm’s consumer knowledge and, consequently, its profitability. Unfortunately, the piece notes, many people in business don’t appreciate the value of that chatter. Rather than treat consumer comments as noise, use social media as a glimpse into the consumer’s life and discover how he or she is really living. In other words, think like an anthropologist.
“Sure, sure,” the numbers-oriented marketing executives may say. Social listening is great for “exploratory” research, but only as a precursor to “real” research that will determine the truth of what’s being said online. What’s needed, they’ll tell you, is broad-based consumer research using representative samples and adequate sample sizes.
Querying a representative sample is great for testing a hypothesis or finding a statistical relationship between known concepts. But often, in marketing, you’re dealing with multiple unknowns. Social listening doesn’t presuppose anything. It has no constraints. Although qualitative information won’t give you a simple equation or statistic that you can show the CEO, it can provide answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.
And comments from a non-representative sample can be highly illuminating. For example, in tech markets, think of the users who regularly post to discussion groups focused on tech products. These knowledgeable netizens provide critical knowledge about product uptake and issues around quality or perception. The same can be said of fan groups and user groups in a variety of fields.
An important player in the electric-shaver category discovered this. Before the launch of a high-end shaver that was to be priced at more than $500 and was encased in brushed aluminum, an Australian retailer posted pictures and specifications of the product online. Almost immediately, consumers began commenting about the product’s “plastic aesthetic” and “cheap look and feel.” The manufacturer took prompt action, posting a new photo series highlighting the quality manufacturing process and construction, neutralizing the negative sentiment spreading online.
Successfully disseminating the results of social listening requires skill at seeing stories and developing insights from messy data. It also requires a penchant for simplicity.
Read the full piece here.
From Dellarocas, C., Katona, Z., & Rand, W. (2013). Media, aggregators and the link economy: Strategic hyperlink formation in content networks. Management Science, 59 (10), 2360-2379.
In today’s link economy, whether a blogger paraphrases news articles or a fully automated aggregator harvests content from across the web, the pathways between content producers and audiences have become increasingly complex. So how should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?
How should content producers respond to competition from aggregators and from each other?
A new study from Boston University School of Management’s Chrysanthos Dellarocas, professor of information systems and director of Boston University’s Digital Learning Initiative, together with Zsolt Katona (University of California at Berkeley) and William Rand (University of Maryland), is the first to model the complex, interrelated implications of strategic hyperlinking and investment in content production. Their analysis, demonstrating scenarios in which such links can boost everyone’s profits, thus yields important implications for professional content producers who have until now been reluctant to link to competitors.
When Linking Increases Profits
Addressing questions relevant to both firms and regulators, Dellarocas et al. identify gaps in existing network economics research around the impact of freely established links and the strategies that motivate their formation. For example, what are the effects of linking to competitors, and when should inbound links be refused?
Dellarocas and his co-authors show that although linking can result in low-quality sites free-riding on high-quality content, “in settings where there are evenly matched competitors, the option of placing links across sites may lead to equilibria where some or all sites are better off relative to a no-link setting.”
Links between peer content sites can increase profits by reducing competition, overproduction, and duplication. The intuition is that, instead of each site expending resources to produce what is essentially duplicate content, everyone can benefit if one site specializes in producing really good content and other sites link to it. Sites that invest in high-quality content benefit from additional referred traffic, while those publishing the links become trusted hubs that attract visitors without having to pay the cost of content production. Different sites might specialize in producing content on different topics, one on politics and another on sports, for example. Thus, all sites produce the type of content they are best at and link to the rest. In this scenario, consumers benefit all-round.
The authors point out that the above scenario can sustain the market entry of inefficient players, allowing them to free-ride on the success of other content sites by linking to them, potentially denting the revenues of target sites. Still, no content site would benefit from unilaterally blocking such links, because then free-riding sites would simply link to their competitors.
The Impact of Aggregators
Acknowledging that aggregators ‘steal’ traffic from content sites, the authors also point out that, “by making it easier for consumers to access good content, aggregators increase the attractiveness of the entire content ecosystem and, thus, also attract traffic away from alternative media.”
While aggregators may direct more traffic to high-quality sites, they also take away a slice of profits from content sites. This happens because some aggregator visitors check article headlines and snippets at the aggregator but never click through to the original articles. Furthermore, aggregators tend to increase competition between content sites. This may boost quality but reduce content producer profits.
See more about “Media, Aggregators and the Link Economy: Strategic Hyperlink Formation in Content Networks,” at Management Science.